Guest Post: Campaigns v. Conversations

Very pleased to have a guest post today from Kenneth J. Weiss, Director of E-Commerce for Hoover and author of the new book, Slightware – The Next Great Threat to Brands. You can download the first chapter for free at Kenneth has put together a compelling infographic that should be of interest to anyone involved in marketing and Social Media.

The Fundamental Differences between Campaigns and Conversations


The infographic is available as a pdf and jpg here:

For brand strategists, social media is a dangerous double-edge sword: it is the ultimate example of a brand’s connection with its audience, and it can reveal a brand as being less than authentic.

Brands, by nature, have rigorously controlled the dialogue and vernacular surrounding the brand through carefully structured campaigns. Campaign-based thinking allowed for periods of strategy, execution, measurement and refinement.

Social media lets the campaign become a true conversation. Customers take part in the dialogue, direct the conversation, and *gasp* talk to each other about the brand. Conversations are beautifully amorphous and adaptable with fundamentally different dynamics. By understanding the possibilities of the user experience around social media, campaign thinking changes to good conversation.

User Has Little Input on Conclusion / Conclusion Based on Resolution

The close of a campaign is typically instigated by the sponsor. Sometimes measurements indicate that the campaign has been successful or is failing to have the desired effect. Other times the constraints of cost and logistics bring about a prescribed end. The close of a conversation, however, is controlled by the user. New technology allows for a low-cost/no-cost dialogue that can follow myriad paths and draw to a natural end when a resolution ultimately occurs. Bottom Line: Only end a social media program when all of the participants have reached a natural end-point. Don’t simply stop answering emails or responding to posts.

Based Upon Context Snapshot / Based Upon Actual Context

Production lead times create a dissonance between the observed situation and the audience’s exposure to the campaign. Simply put: Campaigns take some amount of production time. Ideally the snapshot of the context is viable when the campaign runs. If not, the campaign fails or addresses an irrelevant situation. In conversations the context is continually sampled to make sure it is viable. Bottom Line: Don’t steer a social media experience toward an issue, topic or market dynamic – let it run its course.

Purposed for Time Frame / Purposed in Real Time

In campaigns the purpose is usually tied to some time frame, and each campaign has a limited number of purposes known as goals and objectives. Within a conversation, the purpose exists in real time and can evolve or change. Think of the phone call that can change the tasks ahead when the rep says, “And is there anything else I can help you with?” Bottom Line: Stay current – don’t ignore what’s happening within a social media experience and be responsive.

Generalized Approach / Approach Matches Needs

Different members of a target audience might respond to different messages, types of communication, timing, imagery, etc. Campaigns, however, cannot address each nuance and instead take a generalized, although honed when possible, approach. Conversations are completely adaptive and use an approach that matches the needs and biases of the target. Bottom Line: Truly try to understand what the conversation is showing about customer needs and what style of customer experience works for them.

Segmented / Hyper-Segmented

Campaigns are designed to reach defined audiences. An audience can be targeted by any number of traditional and emerging attributes, but at some point, targeting smaller audiences becomes cost-prohibitive. Technology brings amazing efficiencies that allow conversations to occur with incredibly small target audiences—right down to a one-to-one conversation. Bottom Line: Expect to have multiple conversations and provide very specific information. A customer that is experience a particular problem does not want to hear “download the manual” – they want a solution.

Periodic / Continuous

Campaigns by their very nature have starting and stopping points. Conversations are continuous and flow uninterrupted from one to the next. Bottom Line: Customer interaction will feel more like customer service than mass marketing – get used to it.

When managed correctly, social media can be an incredibly powerful branding tool. The key is to build the social media knowledge of everyone involved in the project (including the boss) and create conversations – not campaigns.

A big thanks to Kenneth for sharing this with me (and you), I hope you’ll check out his site/books and please, leave a comment here as well.